In the midst of World War II, Winston Churchill said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” This is practical advice that is highly applicable in today’s environment. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought tremendous pain throughout the world and caused unprecedented disruption. We can’t deny that. But we can look for the good, the slivers of opportunity and possibility, even in dark days.
In business, the pandemic has exacted a heavy toll. COVID-19 has pushed organizations to face challenges head-on and apply some out-of-the-box thinking. As such, it is worth examining how companies -- and the broader world -- can be served by not “wasting” this moment.
Leapfrog the competition
Moving past a “sky is falling” period of shock at the beginning of the pandemic, some companies are experiencing new vitality, purpose and a sense of urgency. They see this period as a time when they can do more, be better or move faster than their competition, and the agile companies that can adapt quickly have a real opportunity.
PWC illuminated this point in a recent report focused on manufacturing. The report states that organizations “should strategize now on how they can transform and position their organization in ways that will give them a competitive advantage and help create greater resilience in a post-crisis world. This ought to be done on the heels of the disruption, throughout the crisis and during recovery.” The report goes on to highlight that those that made aggressive moves gained a sustainable competitive advantage amid recovery.
Operating with efficiency, facilitating team communications, focusing resources on the areas that matter most, and maintaining systems are key to using this time to leapfrog more stagnant competition.
Innovate or bust
Innovation is dramatically accelerating across multiple sectors, if for no other reason than it had to. Needs -- be they consumer or business -- changed rapidly, and companies have responded, sometimes with humor, sometimes with compassion, sometimes with practicality. I actually would go so far as to say that the pandemic has sparked a period of technology-driven innovation unlike any we have seen since the rise of mobile.
While sites like covidinnovations.com highlight innovative solutions specific to the pandemic, other organizations stepped up to solve a wide range of more vexing and complex industry problems, such as overhauling the supply chain, distributing content in cloud-based environments, producing strong and accurate parts at the point-of-need, or developing systems that synthesize the world’s biomedical knowledge.
There are awe-inspiring inventions everywhere you turn today, which is vastly preferable to the incremental improvements we’ve grown used to expecting.
The disruption of the pandemic also forced action in areas where significant innovation had taken place, but for various reasons, adoption stalled, or implementation had been perennially delayed. Digital health is a prime example. After struggling to get off the ground for years, telemedicine was mass adopted across the country within days or weeks of the start of the pandemic -- and has been further refined in the months since.
Another example is the move to the cloud. Prior to the pandemic, companies, particularly large enterprises, were not highly motivated to transition from traditional environments to the cloud. It would be a hassle. Not all the issues had been solved; it was something that was being planned for but perhaps not yet in process. But as VPN performance has struggled under the weight of remote workforces and as organizations look to trim cost and increase efficiency, timelines for moving to the cloud have dramatically accelerated.
Cornerstone technologies have emerged to meet the demands of a new world. Many have transitioned from “nice-to-have” to “must have” given the recent shift in priorities.
Inevitably, however, some companies are not in the position to make it on their own. As such, market consolidation is likely to take place. We’ve seen Uber snap up Postmates, and companies like Rite Aid have gone local with the purchase of Bartell’s.
But as we settle into COVID-19 life, some interesting, unforeseen mergers could take place to bring new products and services to market. M&A activity is a space to watch as companies seek to differentiate themselves.
So, as we find ourselves deep within the pandemic, with more cases reported each day, we must seek out the best ways to continue. The path forward will not look like business as it has always been done. Instead, it will require thought, creativity and boldness. The companies that acknowledge and embrace the inevitability of this change, those that seek out opportunity and innovation, will be best positioned for long-term success.
Deepak Kumar is the founder and chief executive officer at Adaptiva. He is responsible for overseeing the company’s ability to execute on its strategic product vision in the endpoint management and security space. He was the lead program manager with Microsoft’s Systems Management Server 2003 team and program manager with the Windows NT Networking team. Prior to Microsoft, he was a group manager for IP Telephony products at Nortel. Deepak has received five patents related to his work on SCCM/MEM at Microsoft and has written more than 50 publications, including a book on Windows programming. Follow the company on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.